Mountain Safety / Walkers Advice

Lancashire has some wonderful countryside, with mile after mile of footpaths, fells, tracks and bridleways all waiting to be explored. Every day, hundreds of people take opportunity to get some fresh air, exercise and to explore our glorious county.

The vagaries of the British weather however can turn a magnificent morning into a devastating afternoon. Sometimes insufficient precautions taken against the effects of the weather and poor planning have led groups and individuals into serious trouble.   999 calls to the emergency services for urgent assistance have resulted in the Bowland Pennine Mountain Rescue Team being scrambled to search for, find and evacuate individuals and groups of people, many of whom have been found wanting in their preparations.

The county’s first search and rescue team has been helping people in this way for over forty years. Investigation of each of the hundreds of incidents during this time shows some recurring factors to be responsible for what is, in some cases, a tragic outcome.  So who better to write a safe walkers’ guide to the county than the organisation tasked with search and rescue of those in difficulty? 

This webpage contains advice which, if acted upon, will reduce your risk of becoming yet another emergency service statistic and enable you to enjoy the glorious local countryside to the full. 


Before you depart Injury or medical emergency
What equipment should you consider? Helicopter rescue
On the walk Simple medical advice
Oh dear we’re lost! Funding

Planning your mountain adventure:


Summer Conditions in the Mountains:


Dealing with Bad Weather

Winter conditions in the mountains

Dealing with emergencies


Before you depart


  • Prepare a route plan of the walk, commit it to paper and stick to it. Leave a copy with a responsible person.

  • Check the weather forecast for the day.

  • If the forecast is kind and waterproofs seem unnecessary, at least have a windproof jacket. The wind is by far the most dangerous single element to combat.

  • Beware of wearing jeans. When wet they will conduct a dangerous amount of body heat away from you.

  • Have a sturdy pair of boots with good grip.


What equipment should you consider?


  • High energy foods such as chocolate and sweets boost energy levels quickly.  Muesli bars release energy more slowly and are more useful.  Have a good balance. Diabetics should adjust their diet and medication accordingly.

  • A torch and whistle for attracting attention. The internationally recognised signal for distress is six whistle blasts (or light flashes) per minute, followed by a minute’s rest before repeating. Keeping going until help arrives.

  • Experienced mountaineers and walkers carry a bivi bag or large plastic survival bag into which they can climb to shelter from the elements.

Tip: In extreme conditions conserve maximum body heat by using it in reverse manner after first making a few vent holes in the top.

      Bivi Bag    Bivi Bag

  • Naturally you’ll need your map, guide book or walk notes. A compass is very useful but can you use it?

Map and Compass

  • Global Positioning Systems (GPS) are readily available these days and aid navigation. Never rely upon them to the exclusion of a compass and the knowledge to use it. They are fantastic pieces of technology until the battery goes flat!  A GPS is an aid to compass navigation, not a replacement for it.

       Global Positioning Device


On the walk


  • Snack frequently throughout the walk to deliver a regular supply of energy.

  • Before setting off, identify rendezvous points where everyone can regroup.

  • Several thin layers of clothing are more effective than one big thick layer.

  • Keep the party together and avoid stragglers becoming separated from the rest of the group.


Oh dear we’re lost!


  • Should your group or part of it become lost or separated, do not carry on regardless.  Retrace your steps to a known point where you can regroup then try again. Never deviate from your route plan unless absolutely necessary.

  • Ask for help from passers-by. Shyness or embarrassment takes second place to common sense.

Strobe Light     Emergency Group Shelter

Strobe Light                Emergency Group Shelter

  • Blow your whistle (or torch flashers) as described above.

  • Remember you’ll need to protect your group from the elements now they’re not walking and generating their own heat.

  • If shelter is close by, use it. Place a cairn of discarded items on the track before you move - a map case, an empty flask or toffee wrappers, things you no longer need. This cairn will be found by searchers and will attract them to check nearby locations.

A small group of people invisible on the fell side.

The same group of people with a high visibility
waistcoat above their location to attract attention.


Injury or medical emergency

  • Don’t panic. Keep calm. Reassure the casualty; provide lots of TLC (tender loving care).

  • Assess the seriousness of your predicament and consider the scale of assistance you require. Consider the length and terrain over which the evacuation will have to be undertaken.

  • If assistance is required, call 999 ask for POLICE & MOUNTAIN RESCUE, provide as much information as possible. Provide the most accurate description of your location as you can – ideally with a grid reference.

  • Whilst awaiting the arrival of help highlight your scene, make it as visible as possible with bright clothing or a light from a visible vantage point.

  • People sat or laid on the ground lose a great deal of body heat and can become hypothermic (dangerously cold) very quickly. They need insulating from the ground to prevent this. They will also need covering with clothing to keep warm.

  • The group leader needs to be aware of the condition of the other members.


Helicopter rescue

  • Helicopters like the North West Air Ambulance, Lancashire Constabulary’s Air Support Unit or even RAF Search and Rescue Sea King aircraft, can bring you assistance very quickly (weather permitting). Don't worry about the cost, this is what they are there for.

  • The helicopters arrival will invariable be announced by its noise. Do not frantically wave at the aircraft to gain the attention of the aircrew. This will not differentiate you from other groups in the area.

  • The recognised ground signal to helicopter crews is to stand with your back to the wind and hold your arms out in a Y-shape.


  • If all available members of the party stand side by side in this manner, this unusual image will be quickly picked out by the aircrew as the group in need of assistance.

  • Highlighting of the scene with bright clothing or lights will also assist.  Do not shine a torch at the aircraft at night - the pilot wears night glasses and you will dazzle them.



Simple medical advice

  • Hypothermia. In this country hypothermia can affect anyone exposed to the elements virtually all year round. It is brought on by a combination of factors, one being a loss of body heat conducted into wet clothing to which the wind encourages further evaporation and heat loss. Secondly, the body’s inability to produce enough heat to replace that which is being lost from inadequate energy intake and lowered energy reserves.
  • The first signs of hypothermia are typically the individual appears miserable (more than normal!), loss of interest, reduced conversation, complaining (more then usual!), stumbling and mumbling, feels cold to the touch. If you get this impression. STOP! Immediate intervention is needed. Heat loss must be reversed by adding or changing into warm dry clothes and reducing wind driven evaporation. Energy intake must be stepped up with quick release energy-giving foods such as sugars, chocolate, sweets and hot drinks.

  • Only when the person is fully orientated, warm to the touch and feeling fit to continue should you carry on. If in any doubt as to the severity of the condition, treat for the worst, isolate from the environment and get help. Remember, if one party member can suffer so can another.



  • And what does the Mountain Rescue Service cost the tax payer ?

  • Nothing. This free service is provided by dedicated volunteers trained and equipped, only by your donations and generous sponsors.

  • Helmet £50

  • Radio £390

  • Waterproofs £350

  • Thermal Clothing £190

  • Boots £150

  • Medical Equipment £1000’s

  • Team Members Time & Commitment ...... £PRICELESS


Photograph by Silhouette Photography Tel: (01257) 268116